“Jasmine Revolution”
Symbol of peace: Flowers placed on the barrel of a tank
in very much calmer protests than in recent days in Tunisia

'The Protester' - Time Person of the Year 2011

'The Protester' - Time Person of the Year 2011
Mannoubia Bouazizi, the mother of Tunisian street vendor Mohammed Bouazizi. "Mohammed suffered a lot. He worked hard. but when he set fire to himself, it wasn’t about his scales being confiscated. It was about his dignity." (Peter Hapak for TIME)

1 - TUNISIA Democratic Change / Freedom of Speech (In Transition)

How eyepatches became a symbol of Egypt's revolution - Graffiti depicting a high ranking army officer with an eye patch Photograph: Nasser Nasser/ASSOCIATED PRESS

2 - EGYPT Democratic Change / Freedom of Speech (In Transition)

''17 February Revolution"

3 - LIBYA Democratic Change / Freedom of Speech (In Transition)

5 - SYRIA Democratic Change / Freedom of Speech (In Transition)

"25 January Youth Revolution"
Muslim and Christian shoulder-to-shoulder in Tahrir Square
"A Summary" – Apr 2, 2011 (Kryon channelled by Lee Carroll) (Subjects: Religion, Shift of Human Consciousness, 2012, Intelligent/Benevolent Design, EU, South America, 5 Currencies, Water Cycle (Heat up, Mini Ice Ace, Oceans, Fish, Earthquakes ..), Middle East, Internet, Israel, Dictators, Palestine, US, Japan (Quake/Tsunami Disasters , People, Society ...), Nuclear Power Revealed, Hydro Power, Geothermal Power, Moon, Financial Institutes (Recession, Realign integrity values ..) , China, North Korea, Global Unity,..... etc.) -
(Subjects: Egypt Uprising, Iran/Persia Uprising, Peace in Middle East without Israel actively involved, Muhammad, "Conceptual" Youth Revolution, "Conceptual" (without a manager hierarchy) managed Businesses, Internet, Social Media, News Media, Google, Bankers, Global Unity,..... etc.)
"The End of History" – Nov 20, 2010 (Kryon channelled by Lee Carroll)
(Subjects:Abraham, Isaac, Ishmael, Muhammad, Jesus, God, Jews, Arabs, EU, US, Israel, Iran, Russia, Africa, South America, Global Unity,..... etc.) (Text version)

"If an Arab and a Jew can look at one another and see the Akashic lineage and see the one family, there is hope. If they can see that their differences no longer require that they kill one another, then there is a beginning of a change in history. And that's what is happening now. All of humanity, no matter what the spiritual belief, has been guilty of falling into the historic trap of separating instead of unifying. Now it's starting to change. There's a shift happening."

“ … Here is another one. A change in what Human nature will allow for government. "Careful, Kryon, don't talk about politics. You'll get in trouble." I won't get in trouble. I'm going to tell you to watch for leadership that cares about you. "You mean politics is going to change?" It already has. It's beginning. Watch for it. You're going to see a total phase-out of old energy dictatorships eventually. The potential is that you're going to see that before 2013.

They're going to fall over, you know, because the energy of the population will not sustain an old energy leader ..."

African Union (AU)

African Union (AU)
Heads of governments during the opening session of the African Union summit on January 30, 2015 at the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa

Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela
Few words can describe Nelson Mandela, so we let him speak for himself. Happy birthday, Madiba.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

African nations hail maritime deal

Yahoo – AFP, Emile Kouton with Sophie Bouillon in Lagos, October 15, 2016

A French Navy helicopter chases a boat carrying suspected Somali pirates as
part of an anti-piracy naval mission on May 3, 2009 (AFP Photo/Pierre Verdy)

Lome (AFP) - African leaders on Saturday signed a deal to boost security off the continent's economically crucial coasts, hoping to shore up development by tackling maritime crimes like piracy and smuggling.

Congolese President Denis Sassou Nguesso hailed the African Union agreement as "historic", while Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta said it showed Africa's ability to put together a continent-wide strategy.

Sassou Nguesso said 43 nations had adopted the binding agreement -- which will see countries pay into a special fund for maritime security -- at a summit in Togo's capital Lome.

The deal is designed to improve information-sharing between African nations, a weakness that pirates and smugglers have benefited from in the past, slipping between territorial waters with little trouble.

The talks drew 18 heads of state -- an unusually high figure for an AU meeting of this kind, signalling the importance that governments have placed on the need to cut piracy and other crime in Africa's waters.

As he opened the summit, Chad's President Idriss Deby, the current AU chief, noted that some 90 percent of Africa's imports and exports are transported by sea, making maritime security key to the continent's economic future.

Of the AU's 54 member states, 38 have coastlines.

Deby said the charter would "allow the promotion of commerce and the exploitation of the huge potential of the maritime sector, as well as the creation of wealth and jobs in several industries".

Congolese President Denis Sassou Nguesso hailed the African Union agreement 
to boost security off the continent's coast as "historic" (AFP Photo/Marco Longari)

It would also "mark a decisive new step in the push to preserve the maritime environment", he added.

The deal will create new national and regional institutions to improve security in African waters, while the signatories pledged a string of measures to protect the maritime environment and fight trafficking in drugs, arms and people.

But Timothy Walker, a maritime security researcher at the Institute for Security Studies (ISS), said the deal would allow countries to withhold information from each other if they judge this to be in the interests of national security.

"It's a big step but it can not be the final step. There is still a lot of work to do," Walker told AFP.

Piracy in focus

"African leaders have started to realise that the maritime domain is a source of economic opportunity for the future," Walker added.

Togo's Foreign Minister Robert Dussey told AFP ahead of the summit that there was a clear need for African countries to work together to combat an upsurge in piracy in order to make full use of the continent's maritime resources.

Piracy, smuggling and other crimes at sea have cost the African maritime sector hundreds of billions of dollars in recent decades, according to the AU.

Large-scale illegal fishing also helps drive piracy as it depletes stocks, reducing the legitimate economic activities of coastal communities.

Suspected pirates keep their hands in the air as directed by a patrol from the 
guided-missile cruiser USS Vella Gulf, in the Gulf of Aden (AFP Photo/
Jason R. Zalasky)

In West Africa alone, the AU estimates that illicit fishing causes losses of 170 billion CFA francs ($285 million, 260 million euros) every year.

World piracy has been on the decline since 2012 after international naval patrols were launched off East Africa in response to violent attacks by mostly Somali-based pirates.

But the focus of concern has shifted to the Gulf of Guinea, where a new class of pirates -- mostly offshoots of militant groups from the Niger Delta -- have become active.

At least 27 attempted or successful hijackings and kidnappings at sea have been recorded off west Africa since April, according to the International Maritime Organization, compared to just two off east Africa.

The 17 countries lining the Gulf of Guinea have poor maritime surveillance capacities and have been trying for several years to boost cooperation to clamp down on piracy.

The deal will need to be ratified by at least 15 countries before it comes into force, and Barthelemy Blede, an ISS maritime researcher in Ivory Coast, said it remained to be seen whether there was "real will" to make the deal a reality.

"It's a historic act, but it's one thing to adopt a text and sign it, and another thing to ratify it," he told AFP.

Related Article:

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Maldives quits Commonwealth over rights row

Yahoo – AFP, October 13, 2016

Flags of the Commonwealth nations fly outside the House of Commons in
London on March 10, 2013 (AFP Photo/Justin Tallis)

Malé (Maldives) (AFP) - The Maldives angrily quit the Commonwealth on Thursday after years of wrangling over its human rights record since the toppling of its first democratically elected leader four years ago.

The troubled honeymoon island nation said it had been treated "unjustly and unfairly" by the bloc, a voluntary association of more than 50 countries, mostly former territories of the British empire.

"The decision to leave the Commonwealth was difficult, but inevitable," said a statement from the foreign ministry.

The former British protectorate has come under intense international pressure since the controversial conviction of former president Mohamed Nasheed on terrorism charges.

The Commonwealth put Male on notice after Nasheed stood down as president in February 2012 and said he had been forced out in a coup.

It has since criticised the government over its crackdown on dissidents and its controversial judiciary, and sent a special envoy to try to improve the archipelago's rights record.

In its statement Thursday, the Maldives, which had previously threatened to pull out of the bloc, accused the London-based Commonwealth Secretariat of interfering in its affairs.

"The Commonwealth has sought to become an active participant in the domestic political discourse in the Maldives, which is contrary to the principles of the charters of the UN and the Commonwealth," it said.

"The Commonwealth Secretariat seem to be convinced that the Maldives... would be an easy object that can be used, especially in the name of democracy promotion, to increase the organisation's own relevance and leverage in international politics."

The Commonwealth's watchdog committee of foreign ministers last month voiced "deep disappointment at the lack of progress" in Maldives.

It said it would consider suspension at its next gathering in March 2017.

The Maldives has come under intense international pressure since the
 controversial conviction of former president Mohamed Nasheed on terrorism 
charges (AFP Photo/Ben Stansall)

Hope for return

In a statement received by AFP, Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland said the organisation's members and peoples "will share my sadness and disappointment" at Maldives' decision to quit.

"The Commonwealth Charter reflects the commitment of our member states to democracy and human rights, development and growth, and diversity," she said.

"We will continue to champion these values and to support all member states, especially small and developing states, in upholding and advancing these practically for the enduring benefit of their citizens.

"Therefore, we hope that this will be a temporary separation and that Maldives will feel able to return to the Commonwealth family and all that it represents in due course."

The United States has said democracy is under threat in the strategically located archipelago, which sits on key international shipping lanes.

Washington has criticised the rush trial against Nasheed and demanded his release.

A UN panel has also ruled that Nasheed's imprisonment last year was illegal and ordered the regime of President Abdulla Yameen to pay him compensation.

The Maldives has become the latest country to leave the Commonwealth after
Gambia, which quit in October 2013 (AFP Photo/Sanka Vidanagama)

Political unrest

The country of 340,000 Sunni Muslims is famed for its coral-fringed islands but has been gripped by political unrest since the fall of Nasheed and there are regular anti-government protests.

The government faces allegations of corruption as well as cracking down on any dissent while all its opposition leaders are either in exile or in jail.

Nasheed secured political asylum in Britain this year after travelling to London for medical treatment while on prison leave from a controversial 13-year prison sentence.

He travelled to neighbouring Sri Lanka last month to meet with other exiled Maldivian dissidents in a bid to agree on a plan to "legally topple" Yameen.

While dissidents met in Sri Lanka, Maldivian police raided the offices of the Maldives Independent website in the capital Male hours after Al Jazeera aired a documentary accusing Yameen and his government of massive corruption and money laundering.

The country becomes the latest to leave the Commonwealth after Gambia, which quit in October 2013.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

South Africa basks in continent's first solar-powered airport

Yahoo –AFP, Beatrice Debut, October 9, 2016

George, a town of just 150,000 residents on South Africa's south coast, is home
to Africa's first 'green' airport to be powered by the sun (AFP Photo/Gianluigi Guercia)

George (South Africa) (AFP) - At first glance there's nothing out of the ordinary about the regional airport in George, a town of just 150,000 residents on South Africa's south coast.

In fact though, the small site is Africa's first "green" airport to be powered by the sun.

The control tower, escalators, check-in desks, baggage carousels, restaurants and ATMs -- every service here depends on a small solar power station, located a few hundred metres away in a field of dandelions next to a runway.

Its 2,000 solar panels produce up to 750 kW every day, easily surpassing the 400 kW needed to run the airport.

The excess is fed back into the municipal power grid, and a computer screen in the terminal informs passengers: "Within this month (September), 274 households were supplied through this system with green electricity."

For environmentally-conscious travellers keen to reduce their carbon footprint, it's a welcome development.

"Planes have such a big carbon print," said passenger Brent Petersen, 33, in George. "If we compensate, that's cool."

George Airport was originally built in apartheid-era South Africa in 1977 to make getting home easier for PW Botha, a government minister at the time and later president.

It now serves as a transit hub for shipments of homegrown flowers and oysters, as well as golfers visiting one of the region's many courses. Some 700,000 passengers pass through its doors each year.

The solar plant, launched in September 2015, is the second solar-run airport in the world after Cochin airport in southern India.

Nestled between the Indian Ocean on one side and the majestic Outeniqua Mountains on the other, George was a surprising location for the first attempt at a solar-powered airport in South Africa.

Africa gets is first solar-powered airport in George, with a plant that converts 
solar energy into direct current electricity using solar panels (AFP Photo/
Gianluigi Guercia)

Ambitious project

The town's weather is unpredictable: in the space of half an hour, the temperature can plummet by 10 degrees celsius, the blue skies quickly replaced by a steady drizzle.

But so far, so good: even on overcast days, the plant still produces some power.

At night or when necessary, the system automatically switches over to the traditional power grid.

"The thinking was if we put (the solar system) in the worst unpredictable weather, it will absolutely work in any other airport in the country," the airport's maintenance director Marclen Stallenberg told AFP.

The environmental value of the ambitious project is already evident.

Since solar became the airport's main source of power, the hub has reduced its carbon dioxide emissions by 1,229 tonnes –- the equivalent of 103,934 litres of fuel.

The electricity bill has been cut by 40 percent in the space of a year, "which is a plus for me on the budget," said airport manager Brenda Voster.

Voster says it will take another five to 10 years to pay off the initial 16-million rand ($1.2 million) cost.

Meanwhile, regular power cuts, which in recent years have plagued Africa's most developed economy, are a thing of the past, she adds.

Heavily dependent on coal, which is the source of 90 percent of the country's electricity, South Africa is looking to diversify its options to avoid power cuts.

Robyn Spence, who works at Dollar car hire company at the airport, said they "had to replace quite a few computers" fried by electricity surges caused by power cuts last year –- no longer an issue with the solar system.

George airport's 2,000 solar panels produce up to 750 kW every day, easily 
surpassing the 400 kW needed to run the facility (AFP Photo/Gianluigi Guercia)

Untapped potential

But not all the retailers at the airport are feeling the benefits yet.

Lelona Madlingozi, a kitchen manager at Illy restaurant in the main terminal, said they had two power cuts lasting about three hours each just a month earlier. "We could not sell anything in the shop," she said.

Restaurants, said the airport, are not one of the essential services prioritised during power cuts.

Expanding the use of renewable energy is a key focus for management firm, Airports Company South Africa, said its president Skhumbuzo Macozoma.

The company's goal is to achieve "carbon neutrality", or net zero carbon emissions, by 2030.

In a country with an estimated average of 8.5 hours of sunshine a day throughout the year, solar's untapped potential looks huge.

After the success in George, the airports in Kimberley -- South Africa's diamond capital -- and Upington near the Namibian border have also gone green, with three other regional airports next in line.

George Airport now plans on increasing the capacity of the small power station by an extra 250 kW and will soon install batteries capable of conserving energy generated during the day for use at night.

Related Article:

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

New railway raises economic hopes in the Horn of Africa

Ethiopia and Djibouti have inaugurated their first electric railway. It is expected to boost trade in the region. The railway is the first step of a planned 5,000 kilometer long rail project.

Deutsche Welle, 5 Oct 2016

A train shows the logo of Ethiopian railways

The 750 kilometer (460 miles) railway, built by two Chinese companies, will link Addis Ababa to the Red Sea port of Djibouti City in about 10 hours. This will put an end to the exhausting three-days journey that citizens of the two countries have had to endure when travelling from Addis Ababa to neighboring Djibouti. The project cost 3.7 billion US dollars, of which 70 percent was funded by China, while the Ethiopian government accounted for the remaining amount.

At the inauguration ceremony on Wednesday, Mekonnen Getachew, project manager of the Ethiopian Railways Corporation, called the railroad a ‘game changer', because it will accelerate growth in Ethiopian. The economy of the country in the Horn of Africa country grew by 10.2 percent last year, the fastest rate in the world.

Djibouti, the smallest state in the Horn of Africa, sees the project as the start of a trans-African railway crossing the continent from the Red Sea to the Atlantic Ocean, a journey which takes three weeks by boat.

Media interest ahead of the opening ceremony

More hope for better future

The residents of the two countries have placed great hopes on the railroad. "We're so excited! It takes two or three days for a truck to come from Djibouti. The driver doesn't answer his phone. We don't know where he is and that can be a bit of a nightmare," said Ethiopian importer Tingrit Worku. He drives one of the 1,500 trucks that daliy lumber along the road, carrying  90 percent of imports and exports from landlocked Ethiopia to the port. Djibouti is a key trade hub to Asia, Europe and the rest of Africa.

Chinese ambassador to Ethiopia La Yifan said in a statement that the railroad is built along Chinese standards and with Chinese technology. He said there will be other projects of this kind built by China in the near future. According to the diplomat, many people will benefit from the railroad. It is a win-win situation for both countries in regard to economic integration. Ethiopia gains access to the sea and Djibouti gains access to Ethiopia's emerging market of 95 million people, the ambassador said.

Chinese personnel are in charge
of operating the trains
Test period

The infrastructure will first undergo a three-month test period with no paying passengers and carrying only cargo. As soon as the line is fully functional, uniformed Chinese controllers will welcome passengers to platforms of newly built stations all along the route, while Chinese technicians and stationmasters will keep things running in the background.

"We don't yet have the management experience. We have a management contract with Chinese staff for five years, with an Ethiopian counterpart in training," said Getachew. The effectiveness of security measures will also be gauged during this period as the railway has to go through war-torn countries such as South Sudan or the Central African Republic.

Coletta Wanjohi contributed to this article.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Global trade in African grey parrots banned

Yahoo – AFP, October 2, 2016

African Grey parrots on sale at a bird market in Kuwait City (AFP Photo/
Yasser al-Zayyat)

Johannesburg (AFP) - Delegates at a global wildlife conference on Sunday voted to ban international trade in African grey parrots, one of the world's most trafficked birds.

Prized for their ability to mimic human speech, the birds are a highly sought-after pet, but their numbers have been decimated in recent years by poaching and the destruction of their forest habitats.

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) meeting in Johannesburg voted 95 to 35 in a secret poll to ban the global commercial trade of the parrot.

The African grey parrot will now have 
"the highest level of protection" (AFP
Photo/Ronaldo Schemidt)
CITES said the vote result would give the African grey the "highest level of protection" by listing it in "appendix 1", which outlaws all international trade in animals facing possible extinction.

Dr Colman O'Criodain of conservation group WWF called the move "a huge step forward" in protecting the bird.

"Fraud and corruption have enabled traffickers to vastly exceed current quotas and continue to harvest unsustainable numbers of African grey parrots from Congo’s forests to feed the illegal trade," he said.

"Banning the trade will make it easier for law enforcement agencies to crack down on the poachers and smugglers, and give the remaining wild populations some much-needed breathing space."

The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) estimates that between 2.1 and 3.2 million African greys were captured between 1975 and 2013.

Susan Lieberman of the Wildlife Conservation Society said the parrot had experienced "significant population declines throughout its range in West, Central and East Africa".

"It is extremely rare or locally extinct in Benin, Burundi, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Togo," she said in a statement

"If this bird could talk –- and it certainly can -– the African grey parrot would say thank you."

The CITES treaty, signed by 182 countries and the European Union, protects about 5,600 animal and 30,000 plant species from over-exploitation through commercial trade.

The 12-day conference, which ends on Wednesday, is sifting through 62 proposals to tighten or loosen trade restrictions on around 500 species.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Obama opens new African American Museum amid national racial strife

Yahoo – AFP, Shahzad Abdul, September 24, 2016

US President Barack Obama speaks during the opening ceremony for the
Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture
September 24, 2016 in Washington, D.C. (AFP Photo/Zach Gibson)

Washington (AFP) - President Barack Obama hailed Saturday the opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, a long-awaited institution dedicated to the many threads of black suffering and triumph in the United States.

The first black president of the United States cut the ribbon to inaugurate the striking 400,000-square-foot (37,000-square-meter) bronze-clad edifice before thousands of spectators gathered in the US capital to witness the historic opening, at a time of growing racial friction.

"Beyond the majesty of the building, what makes this occasion so special is the larger story it contains," said Obama -- just a few months before he leaves office -- at the star-studded public ceremony that included the likes of Stevie Wonder and Oprah Winfrey.

"African-American history is not somehow separate from our larger American story. It's not the underside of the American story," he said. "It is central to the American story."

The Smithsonian's 19th addition to its sprawling museum and research complex is the first national museum tasked with documenting the uncomfortable truths of the country's systematic oppression of black people, while also honoring the integral role of African-American culture.

"A clear-eyed view of history can make us uncomfortable," Obama said. "It is precisely of that discomfort that we learn and grow and harness our collective power to make this nation more perfect. That's the American story that this museum tells."

Guests of honor on stage included four generations of a black family called the Bonners, led by 99-year-old great-grandmother Ruth, the daughter of a slave who went on to graduate from medical school.

After Obama declared the museum "open to the world," it was she -- stooped in stature but smiling broadly -- who tugged on a rope to ring an antique bell from an historic black church, sealing the inauguration.

"I feel a sense of pride and a sense of humbleness because of all the sacrifices that so many people made to make this happen," said audience member Karmello Colman, who trekked halfway across the country for the ceremony from Kansas City, Missouri.

"I feel honored because it is highlighting the accomplishments of my ancestors, who were probably slaves, and those of so many others."

Oprah Winfrey and Will Smith attend the opening ceremony for the 
Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture
 (AFP Photo/Zach Gibson)

Deteriorating race relations

Elected in a wave of optimism in 2008, Obama pledged to unify, often repeating that he is not the president of black Americans but of all Americans.

But as his presidential mandate ends polls show that the overwhelming majority of Americans see US race relations as "generally bad."

The recent fatal police shootings of black men in Tulsa, Oklahoma and Charlotte, North Carolina laid bare yet again the country's racial disquiet.

Obama delivered his Saturday address amid these ever-heightening tensions, as national outrage grows over the spate of deaths of black men at the hands of police, prompting mass protests.

The president emphasized that a museum alone cannot solve the ills of a country still struggling to overcome a dark legacy of slavery and racial prejudice, but said it "provides context for the debate of our times."

"Perhaps it can help a white visitor understand the pain and anger of demonstrators and places like Ferguson and Charlotte," Obama said.

"It can also help black visitors appreciate the fact that not only is this younger generation carrying on traditions of the past, but within the white communities, across the nation, we see the sincerity of law enforcement officers and officials who, in fits and starts, are struggling to understand."

"And are trying to do the right thing," he said.

Protesters hold signs in front the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department 
during a demonstration in Charlotte, North Carolina (AFP Photo/Nicholas Kamm)

'Hallowed ground'

The dramatic building -- set in a prime location near the White House and the Washington Monument -- features three inverted-pyramid tiers sheathed in bronze-painted filigree panels that house more than 34,000 objects, nearly half of them donated.

Obama noted that the building reaches 70 feet below ground -- "its roots spreading far wider and deeper than any tree on this mall" -- a crypt of historical galleries that wind from slavery to civil rights to Black Lives Matter, ascending into upper floors that include testaments to African-American cultural contributions.

"I'm so happy to see that so many people of color are coming out together just to celebrate themselves and one another," said 50-year-old Derek Jones, who ventured from New York to attend Saturday's celebration that included music, poetry and dancing.

"It's amazing to get this opened by the end of Obama's eight years," Jones said, adding that he is "proud that he's still president during the opening -- it's really profound."

Ringing up to $540 million -- half of which was raised from private donations -- the museum shows "that this country born of change, this country born of revolution, this country of we the people, this country can get better," Obama said.

"It is a monument, no less than the others on this mall, to the deep and abiding love for this country and the ideals upon which it is founded. For we, too, are American."

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Indonesia, Kenya and Ghana to be removed from Dutch aid list

DutchNews, September 20, 2016

Photo: Dutch foreign ministry 
Indonesia, Kenya and Ghana are to be removed from the list of 15 countries where the Netherlands concentrates its aid efforts in 2020, aid minister Lilianne Ploumen has told parliament. 

Three countries will be added to the list to replace them. They are likely to come from the Sahel region in Africa, which lies between the Sahara to the north and the Sudanese savanna, the minister said in her briefing

The government’s policy is to focus on countries closer to Europe’s borders. 

Over the past six years, the number of countries which benefit from Dutch aid efforts has been cut from 33 to 15. 

In seven – Afghanistan, Burundi, Jemen, Mali, Palestine, Rwanda and South Sudan – the focus is on tacking poverty and boosting stability. In the other eight – Bangladesh, Benin, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Indonesia, Mozambique and Uganda – reducing poverty, and boosting jobs and private sector involvement are central. 

Rwanda is to be moved from the category of poorest countries and will get more help with trade and investment, Ploumen said.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Dutch ports at centre of dirty diesel trade, Swiss report claims

DutchNews, September 19, 2016

A lorry near Accra. Photo: Carl De Keyzer – Magnum 

Swiss commodity trading firms are exploiting lax regulatory standards to sell toxic fuel to Africa and much of the dirty diesel is stored in Amsterdam and Rotterdam, according to a report by Swiss NGO Public Eye

Rotterdam oil firm Vitol and Dutch Swiss Trafigura, have major refining and storage interests in the Netherlands and in Antwerp where crude oil is mixed with other substances to keep prices low, Public Eye claims.

‘The 160-page report also shows that the trading companies not only ship dirty diesel and dirty gasoline — and in some areas even sell it at their own pumps — but also produce both fuels themselves,’ Public Eye said.

‘On land or at sea, they mix up a petrochemical cocktail from refinery products and other components known in the industry as “African Quality”. These toxic fuels are mainly mixed in the ARA-Zone (Amsterdam-Rotterdam-Antwerp) where Swiss trading firms have their own refineries and storage facilities,’ the report said. 

Banned substances

Many West African countries that export high grade crude oil to Europe receive toxic low quality fuel in return. 

Public Eye researchers drew fuel at local pumps in eight countries and found diesel samples contained up to 378 times more sulfur than is permitted in Europe. Other toxic substances, such as benzene and poly-cyclical aromatic hydrocarbons, were also found in concentrations that are banned in Europe. 


‘It is unacceptable that we continue to supply developing countries with sub-standard fuels and vehicles, which result in major health impacts by increasing air pollution,’ said Eric Solheim, executive director of the UN’s environment programme.

‘In our globalized economy, there are good reasons to universallyapply clean fuel and vehicle standards in every country. Dumping old and dirty substances and technologies needs to stop now.’ 

According to Trouw, both Vitol and Trafigura say they support measures to reduce pollution and will reduce the level of sulfur permitted in fuel if the countries concerned change the regulations.

Related Article:

Sunday, September 11, 2016

World governments urge end to domestic ivory markets

Yahoo – AFP, Kerry Sheridan, September 11, 2016

After fierce debate, including opposition from Namibia and Japan, a motion was 
adopted at the IUCN World Conservation Congress to urge closure of all 
domestic ivory markets (AFP Photo/Tony Karumba)

Miami (AFP) - In a bid to stop the killing of elephants for their tusks, world governments voted at a major conservation conference to urge the closure of all domestic ivory markets.

After fierce debate -- including opposition from governments like Namibia and Japan -- the motion was adopted on the final day of the International Union for Conservation of Nature World Conservation Congress, a 10-day meeting that drew 9,000 people to Honolulu, Hawaii this month.

"Today's vote by IUCN members is the first time that a major international body has called on every country in the world to close its legal markets for elephant ivory," said Andrew Wetzler, deputy chief program officer at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

"It's truly a landmark moment, and a victory for elephants that will hopefully be repeated later this month at the next meeting of Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in Johannesburg."

Although the motion is non-binding, it "urges the governments of countries with domestic ivory markets to take all necessary legislative and regulatory efforts to close them," according to the IUCN.

Experts say that domestic ivory markets help fuel poaching by allowing traffickers a cover for their illegal imports and exports.

The United States and China, among the biggest consumers of ivory, have already agreed to enact near-total bans on their domestic markets.

Kenya Wildlife Services (KWS) rangers prepare a pyre in preparation for a burning 
of tonnes of ivory, rhino-horn and other confiscated wildlife trophies (AFP Photo/
Tony Karumba)

At the IUCN meeting, Japan and Namibia -- which also have thriving domestic ivory markets -- sought to soften the language of the motion by making 20 different amendments, but those efforts were rejected.

"The global conservation community is stepping up," said Wildlife Conservation Society President and CEO Cristian Samper.

"No more domestic ivory sales. Elephants have had enough of the ivory trade and so has the world."

Poaching persists

CITES banned the international commercial trade in African elephant ivory in 1989.

But illegal poaching of endangered elephants for their tusks persists at dangerous levels, according to research released at the start of the September 1-10 conference, the largest of its kind in the conservation community.

Savanna elephants have declined at a rate of 27,000 -- or eight percent -- per year, with a total of 144,000 lost in less than a decade, said the findings.

Poaching hotspots identified include Angola, Mozambique and Tanzania, where "staggering population declines" were found, said the study funded by Microsoft co-founder and billionaire philanthropist Paul Allen.

The US and China, among the biggest consumers of ivory, have already agreed
to enact near-total bans on their domestic markets (AFP Photo/Tony Karumba)

Other populations face "local extinction" in northeast Democratic Republic of Congo, northern Cameroon and southwest Zambia.

Wildlife groups hailed the IUCN move and called for more action at the CITES talks in Johannesburg later this month.

"There, we remain hopeful the delegates will be emboldened by the IUCN vote to adopt a resolution submitted by African governments that also calls for closure of domestic ivory markets," said Samper.

"The shutting down of domestic ivory markets will send a clear signal to traffickers and organized criminal syndicates that ivory is worthless and will no longer support their criminal activities causing security problems in local communities and wiping out wildlife."

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Thursday, September 1, 2016

Study sounds alarm for Africa's slow-breeding forest elephants

Yahoo – AFP, August 31, 2016

The population of Central Africa's forest elephants has been decimated by illegal
hunting, with an estimated 65 percent decline between 2002 and 2013, researchers
say (AFP Photo/Laudes Martial Mbon)

Paris (AFP) - Even without poachers, Central Africa's forest elephants would need almost a century to get their numbers back up to 2002 levels, said a study Wednesday that pried into the elusive creatures' slow-breeding ways.

The population had been decimated by illegal hunting, with an estimated 65 percent decline between 2002 and 2013, said researchers.

Roaming the tropical forests of Cameroon, Central African Republic, Congo, Gabon and Democratic Republic of Congo, the tusker sub-species is thought to have numbered about one to two million at its peak, study co-author George Wittemyer of Colorado State University told AFP.

In 1993, the rough estimate was 500,000, and in 2013 some 100,000.

"The forest populations are reproducing now, though at a very slow rate," Wittemyer said by email.

"The problem is that poaching is removing individuals at a rate that either drives the population to decline or negates any increases due to births."

Forest elephants are smaller than savannah elephants -- the other, much better studied, African sub-species.

Their ears are more oval-shaped, while their tusks are straighter and point downward, according to environmental group WWF.

Targeted by poachers for their meat and ivory-bearing tusks, the forest elephant is categorised as "vulnerable", which means "facing a high risk of extinction in the wild," the WWF website says.

African forest elephant (AFP Photo/Laurence Chu)

Wittemyer and a team analysed data obtained from decades-long, on-sight monitoring of the births and deaths of elephants at Dzanga Bai, a park in Central African Republic.

90 years to recover

In what is claimed to be the first-ever study of forest elephant demography, they concluded the creature was a much slower breeder than its open-air cousin.

Female forest elephants only start reproducing after the age of 20, and give birth once every five to six years, the team observed.

Their cousins from the savannah, by comparison, typically start breeding at 12 and produce a calf every three to four years.

"Their reported low birth rates mean that it will take forest elephants at least 90 years to recover" from poaching losses, the researchers said in a statement.

The data suggested that what are considered sustainable levels of trade in forest elephant ivory, were calculated on the basis of overestimated population growth rates, they added.

This should be kept in mind when ivory trade limits are next debated, said the team -- crucially at a meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species which opens in Johannesburg on September 24.

Forest elephants are crucial for their environment, and many tree species rely on the giants to disperse their seeds. The trees, in turn, absorb climate-altering greenhouse gases.